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Identifying Hedgehogs from their Natural Markings

Home Forums Champions’ chat Identifying Hedgehogs from their Natural Markings

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    I have adapted some notes I made previously which were in the middle of some other posts. I know some people have found them useful in the past and hopefully more of you will now.

    It is possible to identify the hogs by their natural markings, and much easier than some people think. Things to look out for are:

    Facial markings. (general colour, dark or pale, whether there are stars – as on horses, Triangles coming down from between ears, bars across the face in various places and angles, bars beneath ears, any pale patches, areas of mottled appearance, dark marks from nose to eyes, how far above the eyes the dark mark goes, the shape of it, etc.)

    Colour of fur inside ears. On camera dark, medium or light.

    Colour of spines (i.e. russety, dull brown, pale, any pale groups of spines, etc.) On camera, dark medium or light.

    Variations/gradations in colour of their skirts (the hairy part underneath the spines) Sometimes a skirt can be pale with dark bands going down – a bit like a hedgehog barcode!

    Whether there is a marked band between the skirt and the spines and if so, what colour it is. On camera different depth of darkness can be detected.
    Whether or not they have a big ruff, although that sometimes changes during the season.


    I recommend drawing a template of a hedgehog face. Similar to the inside of an onion. Ears at the top, nose at the bottom and eyes in between. Then all you have to do is fill it in when the hedgehog arrives. Then draw a template of a side view of the hedgehog so that it is ready to fill in too. There is nothing like trying to draw a picture to help you to be more observant and remember better. My current profile picture is a rough template of a hog face. I am not much of an artist, but it doesn’t have to look artistically brilliant to help you with identification.

    With hoglets, you will need to revisit your sketch as they grow, as the facial markings, in particular, do seem to develop.

    I feed the hogs at a distance that I can see them through binoculars, so I can get a really close up view of their faces. I leave the outside light on whilst I am up to see them and the hogs don’t seem to mind at all.

    I know some people put artificial marks on the hogs but, personally, I don’t like to see a hog with ‘graffiti’ on it and I see no need. Fair enough if it is for scientific study, but otherwise, who are we marking them for, the hogs or ourselves? They are wild animals and my feeling is we should only interfere with them if it is for the benefit of the hedgehog or hedgehogs as a whole. They do not belong to us and there may be other people who also see them as ‘their’ hogs who would be very upset to see them marked. Other animals are identified by their natural markings, so why not hedgehogs. Far better to see them in their wild natural beauty.

    This method of natural identification, has the benefit, not only that the hedgehog is not being, potentially, distressed by being repeatedly artificially marked, but you will be able to recognise the hedgehog year after year – usually not the case with artificial marking. When a hedgehog arrives, if you don’t recognise it, just check your sketches to see if it is one you have already drawn, if not use another template and fill it in.

    Good luck – I hope you will all decide to try natural identification.


    Hi Nic, that’s absolutely wonderful!
    I have no talent at all for drawing unfortunately, absolutely useless. I bet I couldn’t even draw your template! I have painted ornaments, had to stop that as the house was full of them! Anyway, now I’m wondering if it could be done in some way from photographs, not too sure, but may try that. I’ve noticed different colours of the spines and mostly the size of them on cctv has told me which one it is, plus some damaged spines picks out one male. As I’ve said before, to mark them in any way is awful and failing to identify one would be no problem really as we are privileged to have them. Best wishes.


    I’ll give it a go, it sounds like a good way of identifying them, and I might get some enjoyment out of doing it. Whereas marking them with paint would be very stressful – and it ruins their natural beauty.

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    It may be that you just start with one hog, who happens to have significant distinguishing features. That’s how I started. There was one hog who I just couldn’t help recognising. She was around for about 5 years and it was always a joy seeing her arriving after hibernation.

    She was very recognisable either in real time or on the camera, Then I realised I was starting to recognise others and gradually, at that time, had 12 different adult hedgehogs which I could recognise fairly easily. Needless to say they didn’t all visit at the same time, nor did all of them visit every night. It was the females who were the most loyal patrons of my hog restaurant. The males came and went a bit. But by recognising them and keeping meticulous notes, I was able to observe a lot of their behaviour. Mostly from watching in real time.

    These days there seem, in general, to be fewer hogs around, so theoretically it should be easier to recognise them, if that is what you choose to do. Sadly when other people artificially mark the hogs it makes it a bit more difficult to identify them naturally, but it’s usually still possible.


    I recgnoise Huffy, because he looks as though he has a pale streak on him near his rear end, but I don’t think it’s paint, I think it’s a natural marking. I think his spines there are a bit lighter.

    Now that Huffy has been chased off out of his home by Klepto, do you think Huffy will disappear now? He was very cautious around Klepto before he started to get biffed, and then Klepto went in Huffy’s home, Huffy tried to get in and Klepto came out and biffed Huffy more, then Klepto went back in the home and left poor Huffy curled up in a ball near the home.

    I knew Hedgehog’s share homes, but I didn’t know they steal them. I just wonder, after Huffy’s ordeal tonight, will he be reluctant to come back?

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    Hi HedgieLover

    I don’t expect Hufffy will disappear due to the other hog being around. He might just adjust his timing a bit, but maybe not even that.

    I think it’s unlikely that a whole streak would be a natural marking. (Although, of course, it does depend a bit on what you mean by a streak!). They do occasionally have small areas of pale spines, but usually no more than half a dozen and usually less – not as much as I would think of as a streak. Huffy may have split loyalties and be visiting elsewhere as well!

    You would be better off, now that you know which one he is, having a really good look at his other markings,especially his face, and make a note of them. (If you are writing a description or doing a drawing, it makes you look more carefully.) That way you are more likely to recognise him next year after hibernation, when any artificial marking may have worn off.

    The hogs won’t be thinking of the hog house as a home. To them it’s just a place to have a nap or spend a few days. It just happens to be a place which you have provided. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Wait and see what happens next. But that is the advantage of having a wildlife friendly garden, so that there are other potential places for Huffy to go. He will know his local area pretty well and will know where there are suitable places to sleep.

    But, just because he doesn’t spend the day in your garden, doesn’t mean Huffy won’t be back for food. Most of the hogs which have visited here over the years have not been living here, or even, other than occasionally, spent the day here. They can travel up to 2 miles a night – so quite a few gardens worth.


    I’ve not seen him tonight, I don’t think, but I managed to pick up Chloe.

    She’s in a box in my bathroom at the moment, eating some dog food, which she seems to be enjoying, I’ve given her two towels, one to rest on, and one to burrow under and she’s just been burrowing under it. However, she was very still and obviously stressed about being captured.

    My only concern is what if I’ve got the wrong hedgehog? I’m pretty sure it’s here, she’s making the same sneezing sounds (more like a sneeze than a cough) and she was scratching a lot – problem is she walked away and started scratching- but I wanted to wait a bit until I was 100% it was her, but she was heading towards the school fence, so I had to pick her up before she went underneath the fence.

    I’m pretty sure it’s her though. Looks like there’s something wrong with one of her eyes. I can’t see anything crawling on her though. But she is scratching excessively for a reason and needs to be checked out – obviously if there is nothing wrong they’ll put her back into the wild – but I felt horrible yesterday not doing anything about it.

    So glad the fox didn’t get her. So I’m glad I saw her tonight.

    A hedgehog came out at 8.30pm tonight – that’s the earliest time I’ve seen one, and he went into the hedgehog home after he ate most of the dog food – I think it might be Klepto but he didn’t look as large as he did last night.

    it most likely be Klepto and I think the house was occupied today.

    I’ve realised if it’s not occupied I can actually see inside and see the cavity – but if it’s occupied I can’t see inside – so at least I’ve solved the dilemma of cleaning it out in spring.


    Huffy came back tonight and again, stuck his head in the tunnel of the house – and Klepto came out and biffed him again. Why is Huffy doing that – why is he waiting for Klepto to come and biff him? Do you think it’s because he wants his house back, surely he wants to stay clear of Klepto, and if Klepto wasn’t in Huffy’s nest, Huffy wouldn’t go near him?

    Chloe is sleeping now, or at least resting. But she’s stopped scratching, and I can’t see anything crawling on her – but right eye isn’t right – I wonder if I’ve picked up the wrong hedgehog? , however, she was sneezing like Chloe did last night – she’s stopped sneezing now. Maybe she’s more well then I thought – oh well, I’ll wait until tmrw when the hedgehog rescue centre come and collect her – hopefully it won’t be too long before she gets put back in the wild again.

    So happy the fox didn’t get her. I was really upset about that last night fearing the worst.

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    Hi Hedgie Lover

    I’m guessing Chloe may have been to the wildlife hospital by now. You did the right thing catching her, especially if she was about to disappear under the fence.

    Assuming all goes well with her, they should return her to you to be released where she was found.

    Good luck.


    I’ve tried to identify different hogs from distinctive features but from only looking at black and white video footage I find the only way I can reliably tell them apart is from size and from pale coloured spines which seem to show up well under the ultraviolet light the wildlife cameras use to illuminate the area. I’ve noticed most of the hogs I see tend to have blotches of pale spines on their back end and I tell them apart from the shape of the blotches. Is there some reason they often appear to have these marks on their back ends?

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    Hi Bushsnuffler

    It is possible to tell hogs apart from black and white video. You need to be looking at the places which have different shades of darkness, ie. the face, ears, skirt and ‘skirt band’, etc. Any marks on the spines are potentially where someone has artificially marked the hogs, although it’s possible it’s a skin/spine problem – another reason why it’s a bad idea to artificially mark hogs as it can potentially cover up any such problems, or alternatively make it look as if there are such problems from a distance.


    Hi Nic
    I’ll keep trying to identify them from different features, I’ve only been watching them on camera for around 6 weeks so maybe I’ll get better at it over time. I think it’s probably easier if the camera is right up close next to the feeding station or hog house but I often move the camera back a bit to cover a larger area so I can see more of their natural behaviour and mooching around so seeing distinctive areas is more difficult.

    Can’t understand why anyone would think it’s ok to catch and mark a hog for their own benefit, if it’s in a rescue place for a legitimate reason fair enough but otherwise it’s just wrong

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    Hi Bushsnuffler

    Totally agree. I don’t understand why anyone thinks they have the right!

    Keep watching and you’ll get there in the end. Maybe pick on one hog who looks a bit more distinctive first and have a really good look at the face, etc. then once you’re confident that you know that one, move onto another. I know I said it before, but drawing really does focus the eye on the hog and makes you look more closely at small differences – and remember them!

    Maybe you need another camera – one for close and one for far! But you’re right, it’s nice to be able to watch their behaviour without them disappearing out of frame all the time. Just checked mine and it’s 7 – 8 feet away from the feeding area, which shows a fair bit of behaviour, but still close enough to see individual hogs fairly well.

    Good luck.


    I started off early April seeing one hedgehog in the back garden and thought I would try and help it by putting food and water out. Now I’ve got a feeding station out the back, feeding station out the front, cut a fence hole, bought 2 cameras, built a feeding station for the neighbour over the street and got a friend so interested he’s got his own whole set up now himself (hog house, station, cameras etc.)
    I’m not working because of the lockdown but it almost feels sometimes like I’ve got a new job in hedgehog welfare 😃
    I think my girlfriend thinks I’m taking it a bit far so I’m holding off on anymore cameras for now.

    Have got my eye on a 400 quid Bushnell infrared scope though 😁

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    I like your thinking about the camera, Bushsnuffler! You could have taken up worse occupations.

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